Enjoy the simple things in life on a day out or day trip in Ayrshire. Enjoy a beautiful outdoor walk, go stargazing, or spend a day at the beach, and hopefully soon, you can add exploring castles, farm parks and a self-guided driving route to your weekend plans in Ayrshire.
These suggestions are not just for visitors - if you're lucky enough to call this region home, then these ideas are for you too!
Stargazing in your back garden
There are some people in Scotland lucky enough to live in a Dark Sky Park, Town or on an Island - but the rest of us can still see some amazing starry sights from our gardens. With our new Dark Sky Toolkit, and Stargazing in Scotland video series, we've got all the tips you need at any time of the year to be bedazzled! Did you know:
- There are three different types of twilight - civil, nautical and astronomical - which take you from daylight to full darkness. You can see some stars in every type, so at any time of year.
- We've got 14 stargazing hotspots for you to choose from in Scotland - when it's safe to explore, there's Tomintoul & Glenlivet, Moffat and Shetland to try.
- It can take up to 20 minutes for your eyes to adjust to looking at the dark night-time skies, so give it some time and enjoy a moment of quiet and calm.
Dean Castle Country Park & Gardens
After being indoors for a while, the idea of exploring over 200 acres feels like Christmas to most of us! But it's even better when those 200 acres are full of native woodland, open farmland and wildflower meadows. Did you know:
- You're encouraged to stop and ask the park rangers what they're doing if you want to know more - you'll see them planting the wildflower meadows, new woodlands and hedgerows, and creating new ponds. (Just remember to give them 2 metres space when you do!)
- Whilst the castle itself is closed for refurbishment at the moment, there are three trails to follow around the grounds - the History, Countryside or Farm trail.
- Admire the towering walls of the castle, watch the grounds change throughout the seasons or see the pigs, goats, sheep and deer on the Urban Farm.
Dean Castle Country Park has lots of helpful advice for how to enjoy the grounds, to keep you and other visitors safe.
The lovely little village of Dunure, near Maybole in south Ayrshire, is a charming fishing village with a picturesque harbour. The striking Dunure Beach, with its combination of shingle, dark sand and the romantic ruins of Dunure Castle peeking over its shoulder, promises for both dramatic photos and great memories to return home with!
Did you know?
- The castle was once the seat of Clan Kennedy.
- Mary Queen of Scots is thought to have stayed overnight in the castle in the 1560s.
- The harbour, beach and castle have featured in season 3 of Outlander.
- Just to the south of the village is the Electric Brae, an optical illusion where your car looks as if it is going uphill when actually, it is rolling downhill.
Although the doors of Craufurdland Castle may be closed for the time being, you can still explore its beautiful surroundings and enjoy a range of outdoor pursuits including fly fishing and beautiful woodland walks. Did you know?
- Craufurd Castle has been home to the Craufurds of Craufurdland since 1245. It's split into two apartments, the Tower House, a luxury self-catering apartment for up to 16 people, and the Laird's House, next door, where the current laird lives.
- The castle is one of the oldest in Ayrshire with scenic views and is just 35 minutes from Glasgow.
- Overnight guests of the castle accommodation will be able to find the secret passageway to the laird's room and the spacious drawing room where you will be able to relax and look out onto the garden, meadows and river.
Find out more about Craufurdland Estate.
Take advantage of the nice weather and take some time out with the family at Irvine Beach. It's golden sandy beach and crystal-clear waters make it one of the top places for a sense of escapism. Fill your lungs with the sea breeze and take a nice stroll where you will be accompanied with great views over the Firth of Clyde. Did you know?
- To the south is the small town of Troon, a popular place amongst golfers. Inland is Kilwinning, an ancient Abbey town.
- Please note that while car parks remain open, the toilets are closed at the moment.
Plan a trip to Irvine beach.
Heads of Ayr Farm Park
Cute animals are not just for kids. Learn more about the different animals at this farm park sitting just south of Ayr. Did you know:
- Animals range from the small - the Little Critters Animal Barn - to the more unusual (for Scotland as least!) with monkeys, lemurs, prairie dogs, meerkats and Ralph, the camel!
- There's a bunch of other activities - bumper boats, electric tractors and diggers, an assault course, giant aerial runway, and the intriguing water wars, ringo sledging or jumping pillows!
- The park has its very own rhyming story book - Buster Wants to Play - where you can join Buster the Parrot around the park as he searches for a friend, meeting all sorts of animals as he goes.
Plan a trip to Heads of Ayr Farm Park.
Dark Sky Observatory
You're spoilt for choice with dark sky spots, but we highly recommend the Dark Sky Observatory, which sits within the Galloway Forest Park - a Dark Sky Park - near Dalmellington. This public observatory has two powerful telescopes and a planetarium. Did you know:
- The observatory roof rolls off - so you'll feel like you're outside but be indoors!
- The Galloway Forest Park was the first Dark Sky Park in the UK and it has Gold tier status.
- The aim behind the observatory is to inspire people of all ages and backgrounds with the beauty and wonder of the universe - a pretty amazing goal to have!
The Shire - Coig Driving Route
Take yourself on a self-guided tour of Ayrshire by following the Shire - a Coig driving route - which runs for 138 miles from north to south and back again in a loop, from the edge of the region back up the coast. It's a great way to see the lands used for fishing, mining and farming, which were once roamed by William Wallace, Robert the Bruce and Robert Burns. You'll be able to stop in places such as:
- Maidens, a little coastal village, where it's thought Robert the Bruce landed in 1307 en route to his eventual reconquest of Scotland, after hiding out on Rathlin Island.
- Barr, a small village in the south west, which is thought to have been set up in the 17th century by smugglers who needed a safe place to store their treasures!
- Straiton, another small village, home to Blairquhan Castle, a stunning representation of Georgian architecture used as one of the main filming locations for the 2006 movie, The Queen.
Plan a drive around the Coig Driving Route - The Shire.
There are gardens, beaches, woods, trails and new adventure playgrounds to explore at Culzean, but it is the absolutely stunning castle that is well worth a look inside. It sits perched on the Ayrshire cliffs, and was designed by Robert Adam in the late 18th century. But did you know:
- The castle is also home to the Eisenhower Hotel, a six-bedroom space which can be booked for exclusive use. It's named after President Dwight D Eisenhower, who was gifted the space as a holiday home in 1945.
- The castle was built for the Kennedy family, one of the oldest clans in Scotland, who can trace their ancestry back to Robert the Bruce.
- It's also home to one of the largest collections of British military flintlock pistols in the world.
Plan a trip to Culzean Castle & Country Park.
With so many places to visit across Scotland, will you head to one of your favourites or try somewhere new? Share your ideas and fascinating facts on Ayrshire in our iKnow Community or on social media.